Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Douglas Armstrong, Professor and Undergraduate Director
Christopher DeCorse, Professor and Chair
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Anthropology | Other Anthropology
Cross culturally and historically people who are attracted to members of their own sex ("homosexuals") have been viewed and treated in radically different ways. Some societies have exhibited tolerance or indifference, whereas others have vilified and persecuted homosexuals. Using primary sources, this project reviews the major sociological and medical theories of “homosexuality” between 1864 and 1946, evaluates their bias and political implications, and closes with a brief overview of contemporary research.
In chapter two the themes of the texts presented are: causality, diagnosis, and treatment. The primary theory between 1864 and 1908 argues the congenital nature of “homosexuality. The themes in chapter three are: perspectives on “homosexuality,” developmental processes, and the nature of patients’ relationships to themselves, their families, and others. Arrested development and the importance of childhood relationships become popular theories between 1908 and 1946.
These two chapters represent critical shifts in the medicalization of the “homosexual” body from scientific and medical perspectives to psycho-analytic perspectives. Many of the authors provide progressive ideas on “homosexuality” in their quest for scientific answers to a polarized subject matter. Although these early studies attempt to maintain scientific objectivity, they often conceal moral attitudes and prejudice. The theories and approaches analyzed in both chapters tend to pathologize “homosexuality,” marginalize individuals and groups, differentiate “homosexuals” from “normal” people while ignoring diversity, and stereotype on the basis of gender.
Problems of prejudice and persecution persist today, as described in chapter four. This project guides the reader through the 19th, and early 20th centuries’ literature on homosexuality and analyzes its value judgments and political implications for gay and lesbian groups. Finally, a brief overview of contemporary research reviews the possible biological influence on “homosexuality” and homophobia in clinical settings. It is hoped that this journey will be enlightening and enable professionals as well as laity to make informed and fair decisions in the future.
Townsend, Kristin (Lula), "The Medicalization of “Homosexuality”" (2011). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 292.
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